Pulse Of concord/Sept 2012/ Top Two Primary Still Under Review

See latest results from Edi Birsan’s Concord Pulse polling.

1. Thinking back on the “Top Two” Primary System that was introduced in June – Please indicate your level of approval:
9.9% Strongly Approve
15.4% Approve
45.1% Neutral
14.3% Disapprove
15.4% Strongly Disapprove

The controversial Primary change has seen run-offs between two people of the same party in Congressional races but not in Concord. The projected negative impact on third parties such as the Green, AIP, and Libertarian has not gotten much coverage, but none of these were particularly visible in Concord.

2. Pension Reform for public employees should include an absolute cap on benefits. Example- no one should receive more than $110,000 in yearly pension?
49.0% Strongly Agree
21.6% Agree Somewhat
5.9% Neutral
10.8% Disagree Somewhat
13.8% Strongly Disagree

The topic of pension reform is a hot one at the moment and it is a complex one. The aspect of a cap came up as a way to deal with the Poster Child of abuse in the case of the Chief that was getting $250K a year in retirement.

Clearly the Back-End (those payouts of very high pensions) are a public relations disaster and financial non-sustainable rally pole that makes the overwhelming average worker who may be getting between 30 and 40K in pensions after 30 years cringe. When a person reaches a point where he has earned such a cap through combined time and salary change/promotion clearly there is support for something to be done. Maybe what we need is to have this segment of the employees shift to a different pension plan. The possibility of combined defined benefits and defined contributions may be something to look at. This way a person in the Back End can still contribute to their pension beyond the cap without it incurring non-sustainable levels of liability for the City.

According to the numbers provided in the Affordable Housing study, Concord’s average family of 4 has an income of $90,000 the cap of $110,000 was chosen in this question as the theory is that there should be some relationship between a city’s medium income and its civil service pensions. If that is a viable concept is a separate issue for review.

3. When considering who to vote for in City Council races, I am very influenced by the ballot pamphlet candidate statements.
14.4% Strongly Agree
32.7% Somewhat Agree
26.0% Neutral
9.6% Somewhat Disagree
10.6% Strongly Disagree
6.7% don’t read Ballot Pamphlet

Geeez you 6.7%, it costs about $1200 to get in the Concord ballot statement and for some of the candidates it is a torturous conclusion of 25 or more drafts, show some compassion. One interesting fact is that in the 2010 City Council race, one candidate who did not put in a Ballot Statement came in dead last out of 10 candidates despite being a common speaker at City Council meetings and distributing almost 20,000 flyers door to door by hand.
The rating of the quality and effect of Ballot Statements is needed further study especially as it relates to what specific content type is most influential? What positive phrases make someone shift to vote for someone as well as what phrases causes a negative reaction?

4. Businesses should be banned from having small (3’x2′) curbside signs when they are more than 20 feet back from the curb in direct line of sight of the street. (e.g. when there is a front parking lot).
21.0% Strongly Agree
16.0% Somewhat Agree
33.0% Neutral
14.0% Somewhat Disagree
16.0% Strongly Disagree

As someone strongly in support of small business I found the even division here interesting. As one business owner commented just this week: “Why is the city so uptight about curb signs, when during the election there is a massive explosion of them and much worse throughout the city?” On the other side it is reported that “curb side signs and flags make things look like a Flea Market and will hurt sales in the long run.” Given the economic times maybe a little less code enforcement here is advisable- when was the last time you went to a Flea Market and there were no customers?

5. Part-time employees of the City of Concord should have medical coverage.
14.7% Strongly Agree
23.5% Somewhat Agree
17.7% Neutral
22.6% Somewhat Disagree
21.6% Strongly Disagree

Another interesting relatively even split. The question may have been poorly phrased, as I am sure that affordability would affect this greatly. My own views tend to always try to support the lowest paid and most physically involved with coverage as the resulting fall back on the emergency room under community payout never seems cost effective. The corporate and its copied civil work plan strategies to bring in part-timers as a way to avoid benefits and their costs is part of all this. Then again there is the issue of universal medical coverage views interfacing with this. How to get at this topic with a better question and still keep it to a simple sentence?

6. Members of the City Council (a part time position) should have medical coverage.
9.7% Strongly Agree
11.7% Somewhat Agree
11.7% Neutral
18.5% Somewhat Disagree
48.5% Strongly Disagree

The case here is pretty overwhelming: NO. It has been noted that some of the City Council folks are involved in their position an overwhelming amount of volunteer time. Yet, it clearly remains by both municipal and state statute that the position is defined as Part Time. I recall the interviews in 2009 for the Chavez vacancy, which put the time commitments around 20-30 hours a week for the more engaged members. Though I believe one of them was counting commuting time from Sacramento in her hours. Others, such as an assistant District Attorney held full time positions elsewhere that had massive time requirements on their own.
This precludes the issue of the City Council getting Lifetime medical coverage after 5 years of service on the Council. Since if there is no coverage there is no Lifetime coverage. I strongly doubt that any of the 20% who support some medical coverage would support the costly Lifetime policy.

7. The number of homeless and street beggars in Concord has increased significantly over the past six months.
28.4% Strongly Agree
31.4% Somewhat Agree
27.5% Neutral
8.8% Somewhat Disagree
3.9% Strongly Disagree

The period between March and September does see more street action because of the weather and the fact that the observers are significantly outside more so the number of contacts with the target population increases. We may also though be in the same situation where strongly negative impacts are slow to fade. However the indication from the police side seems to indicate that the number of homeless and beggars as a base quantity has not had a significant increase in the last 6 months. However there has been an increase in rousting of the camps, which just moves them around and that may give them more visibility because of the transition rather than the roosting.

I have gotten involved as a director with the new program of Change For Real Change and the effort to see if we can divert the enabling funding by the community at large to a service providing coupon that can provide a path out of homelessness and street begging.

8. It’s a good idea to build four 12-story apartment towers (like the one senior apartment tower downtown at Todos Santos) at the North Bart Station?

9.6% Strongly Agree
23.1% Somewhat Agree
21.2% Neutral
17.3% Somewhat Disagree
28.9% Strongly Disagree

The current plans for the North Bart area in the Reuse plan have the possibility for 6 story build outs and flexibility to allow for mixed-use taller buildings. The idea of an apartment complex of small towers (well small in a New York City concept of what a tower is) is too much urban concentration for people. Interesting for the folks in the area is that this particular sample has a higher than normal group from zip code 94521 which is on the far East side of the city closer to Clayton and Ygnacio Valley Road which you might have thought would be more in favor of the other side of the city having urbanization.

9. The City of Concord should retain the ownership of the land at the Weapon Station and only rent it out to developers. (Long-term land lease)

34.6% Strongly Agree
26.0% Somewhat Agree
12.5% Neutral
12.5% Somewhat Disagree
14.4% Strongly Disagree
Clearly the idea is supported. This would mirror some of the relationship between the Mt. Diablo Health Care District and the John Muir Concord Hospital Campus however without the rental payments.

One of the major issues here is that, being in the leasing equipment business for decades there is the whole initial capitalization investment maintenance and finance that underlies the reasons for the customer to resort to the lease option rather than the purchase option. We are a city that at the moment is unwilling to give 20 fixed income seniors reduced price memberships for Lap Swimming at Cal-pool, and somehow we are going to finance a complex lease-rental-development investment strategy over a 30 to 45 year term and be able to balance the concentration of management skills over that time period to make things pay off? Maybe a better question is do we believe that we have the capacity in the City Government to make the long-term land lease work or would the impact of developers on the future elected City Council distort (a rather polite term) the financial arrangements?

10. The Mayor of Concord should be a directly elected position vs. appointed by the other members of the council.
58.4% Strongly Agree
15.8% Somewhat Agree
9.9% Neutral
4.0% Somewhat Disagree
11.9% Strongly Disagree

Again an overwhelming support for the idea. It should be noted that by statute/code the City Mayor in our General Law city has very little power other than running the meeting and making Council sub-committee appointments. The argument against this has always been that what if we get a “Dud” of a mayor we are stuck with it for 4 years, and the other argument that some sort of rotation every year spreads out the experience to others. Of course the backroom politics of the selection process strongly pushes the public to go for a direct election. Interesting enough when you go door to door a significant minority of people think that we already directly choose the mayor but they cannot remember whom they voted for in that position.

There are interesting variations on the theme of the direct elected mayor with most of the long term incumbents in various cities opposed to just about all of them, while the populace still uniformly supports the idea strongly of direct elected mayor. A combination of some sort of change in the very loose ‘rotation’ method that is viewed simply as a back room political decision and maybe a election rule change might give Concord a leadership role in addressing the real-politic problems with this issue.

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Author: Edi Birsan

Concord Resident since 1983, raised two children here who went to the public schools. Working in the international container cargo business since 1973 with my own small business since 1986 involved in Container Technical Surveys and related services.